Being a friend-with-benefits may, may not, lead to sorrow
Q: I am in my early 20s, a college graduate, focused on the beginnings of my career, and a year ago I got out of a long-term relationship because I realized I didn't want to marry him. I have worked on some issues I have had my whole life (seen a therapist to work through child abuse) and I have never felt better.
And I really am happy being single. There is just one thing I really, really miss about being in a relationship: physical contact. Recently I became friends with a guy and we turned into friends with benefits. Things are going great. Neither of us is ready to be in a serious relationship; we say we are just friends, "have fun" while we are still young. I really like him as a friend and even after we stop the benefits, I want to remain friends.
Many people I have talked to don't think a friends-with-benefits relationship can exist and that it will always end badly because one person will always want more. Do you think my situation will end in sorrow, or is it possible to have benefits without feelings?
A: It could end in sorrow, in marriage, in an infection, in parenthood, in court or in July without any drama. Anyone who follows the logic (instead of a bias) knows that already.
You also know, I hope, even though you don't want to, that proximity breeds feelings, and that you're bringing as much of yourselves into proximity as is possible without becoming each other's organ donors.
You argue persuasively that you're in a confident, comfortable, self-aware emotional state right now. But while that lessens the possibility of a bad outcome, and helps you weather one, nothing you do will prevent one. Just by living, you risk sorrow.
Denial of that risk does nothing but introduce an element of shock when sorrow comes. (Are you ready, for example, to learn he has other beneficial friends?) Your letter has a tinge of euphoria — a hard-earned sense of liberty will do that — which can drown out skeptical voices. Please do yourself the favor of accepting the limits on what you control.
Couple can't decide how to handle conflicting events
Q: My boyfriend and I are at different grad schools. Both schools are having a formal event for the respective graduating classes on the same night. We each want to go to our own, but want the other to come with us. We can't go to both. We've been dating only a few months, so we can't really say who owes the other something. Thoughts on how to reach a decision?
Sort of a silly question
A: You both owe it to each other not to give this any more thought than you already have (and if you can defy physics by getting some of your mental energy back, do that).
Seriously. You go to your event and he goes to his. If one of you thinks that's terrible, then that's who goes to the other's party. If one of you responds to this idea immaturely or punitively, then that's useful information to have. And if you fly solo for one! night! and miss each other, then, congratulations.
This scenario isn't likely to recur, but, just in case, pragmatic precedents aren't the worst ones to set.